Religion, it can be argued, is the origin of branding. All religions had intangible ideology but they created physical manifestation with tangible architecture and collaterals. This comprised the genesis of branding, but without commercial give-and-take. I’m naming this sanctified unification through fraternal relationships as Brand Friendship. Afterwards, when formal monarchies materialised, the monarch’s emblem was the brand that symbolised his power to conquer lands and make people subservient.
Historical perspective: The commercial branding era started in Europe after the 17th century when Christianity liberalised the pursuit of literature, science, art and technology. Following British’s 1760 Industrial Revolution, European inventors Louis Vuitton and Cartier, among others, manifested their brands through luxury products that carried their seals. Inventors such as Karl Benz and Ettore Bugatti shaped precision engineering automobile brands. Henri Nestle created milk powder and condensed milk for infants as substitute for breast milk. European brand creators promoted brands prominently in luxury and sophisticated engineering categories, not in mass scale production. That’s possibly because scale was not paramount in Europe of small independent nations.
Branding of giant companies: North America’s cowboy branding culture had no monarchical influence, hence a different approach. Hot stamping of American Wild West farm animals was done to identify different owners. The 19th and 20th centuries saw an American shift towards inventive power by distinctive inventors like Proctor & Gamble (P&G), Thomas Edison (GE), Graham Bell (telephone), James Casey (UPS), George Eastman (Kodak), Charles Flint (IBM) and Henry Ford. They started with commercial trademark which extended to stylised graphic branding up to 1960. Giant American companies established their power through such symbols. They mastered mass market production and masterminded the religion of commercial branding with mass-scale industrialisation while providing affordable pricing through inventive mass production processes like the Taylor system at Ford Motor Company. The two World Wars helped American business to penetrate brands globally.
So clearly, both in Europe and America, the branding culture started with inventors.
Departure of digi-tech: From 1970s, entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs started digital interface with customers. That stretched to a new branding dimension from end-1990s with Google, Facebook and YouTube, among others. This led to uncontrollable mass production of digitally-driven products and services with cost reduction and no industrial frontier. These created a huge disruption of absolute behavioural change in human beings, what I call the departure of Brand Friendship in commercial world.
The customer is in command today: Digital